If the first post-merge vote was defined by a “don’t swim against the current” caginess, then this week’s vote is an all-consuming whirlpool, desperate to swallow up all those drawn into its vortex. This chaos is beautifully summed up in Jeremy’s laughter amidst all the pre-Tribal scrambling — a spontaneous reaction to the madness going on around him. “I’ve played Survivor three times,” he later tells Jeff at Tribal Council. “And I’ve never seen it like this today.”
This pandemonium creates a real highlight of the season, a move that will undoubtedly become an iconic Survivor moment. Of course, I’m talking about a skittish Adam standing up in the middle of Tribal and trying to prise what he believed was an idol from Jeff’s podium. It’s hilarious — and also a little heartbreaking — watching him desperately yanking at this unmovable object while the rest of his tribemates look on in confusion. “I thought it might be an idol,” he explains as he returns to his seat. “Are you confident it’s not?” asks Jeff, clearly egging the poor guy on to further make a fool of himself. With that encouragement, Adam decides to go for it and “plays” the thing stuck to the box that he couldn’t get off. “This is … NOT an idol,” Jeff eventually confirms while everyone has a great old chuckle at Adam’s expense as he’s sent packing to the Edge of Extinction.
Is this a funny scene? Absolutely. It’s pretty much the perfect punchline to Adam’s blunderous edit this season. But is it an “Erik gives up Immunity” style gaffe the likes of which Adam will never live down? I don’t believe so, and I think it’s a bit rich of Jeff to take a mocking tone when this is the sort of “BIG MOVES” gameplay he regularly endorses. It’s simple to see the logic in Adam’s move. First, as he points out, the decorative piece on the podium is a bronze fleur-de-lis, the same shape as the idol Denise shared with him in the premiere. Second, hiding an idol within the Tribal Council set is precisely the kind of thing modern, advantage-obsessed Survivor would do. In fact, it’s a twist that has been done recently in South Africa’s version of Survivor — a season I’m confident super-duper-fan Adam has seen. So, sure, why not take the shot, especially knowing your name is on the chopping block? If it works, Adam looks like a genius. If it fails, then at least you’ve inspired enough Reddit memes to last the rest of the year.
It’s also not as if Adam’s paranoia is unjustified. The way Tribal descends into a melee of murmurs and hushed chatter is enough to put anyone on edge. Names are flying around all over the place, just as they were back at camp earlier in the afternoon. “I aged a few years today,” says Denise in reference to the pre-vote anarchy, which sees a flurry of ever-changing plans and strategies. What begins as an “easy vote” between Adam and Nick soon turns into a headache-inducing game of telephone. Nick tells Tyson that Sophie threw his name out. Adam tells Jeremy and Tyson that they should all vote for Sarah. Tyson then lets Sarah know that Adam wants her out. And Adam won’t tell Ben anything, which leads to a farcical shouting match between the pair at Tribal while everyone else whispers around them. Honestly, Adam and Ben are like an old married couple bickering over who gets to control the TV remote.
After all the hysteria, somehow, the vote ends up coming back around to Adam, with Nick as the backup. Nick finds himself in an interesting position in this episode. Having been left out of the Wendell vote last week, alongside his ally Michele, his first response is to go all scorched earth on his tribemates. “I’m ready for revenge on all those that double-crossed me,” he states, transforming into Uma Thurman in Kill Bill before our eyes. Michele is upset too, especially as she would have been more than happy to write down Wendell’s name if asked, but she is prepared to keep up pretenses in front of the “dingbats.” That’s not Nick’s style, though, as we’ve seen this petulant, charged-up side before, in Survivor: David vs. Goliath. He takes it very personally when he gets blindsided. While it didn’t hurt him last time, as he found a way to channel his anger into a winning game, it’s a risky way to play amongst a cast of Survivor veterans.
As Tony points out, letting your emotions dictate your game can be harmful, whether those feelings are positive or negative. I never thought I’d say this, but Tony acts as the voice of reason in this episode. He talks down an irate Nick, reminding him that blindsides are merely part of the game and not something intended to personally offend. Later, he calmly points out an error made by his Cops “R” Us partner Sarah, who shockingly chooses to give up her Chinese takeout reward to Nick. Sarah explains there was no gameplay behind her decision; it was simply a human move because she felt terrible that Nick got blindsided on his birthday. What would obviously be a touching gesture on the outside world becomes the subject of suspicion in a strategic game for $2 million. Tony tells her that the others will read it as a game move, even if she is 100 percent genuine, and he’s right, as we see the rest of the tribe questioning her tactics. Even Nick, the birthday boy, remains skeptical because of Sarah’s cutthroat reputation. “She got caught up in the moment,” says Tony. “And that one moment can cost you.”
Sarah’s human decision is mimicked over on the Edge of Extinction, which, yes, unfortunately, takes up another sizable chunk of the episode. Parvati finds an advantage that she can trade with someone in the game for fire tokens. “I did something!” she cheers, clearly giddy to momentarily escape the soul-sucking boredom of the Edge. “I’m like a mouse trapped on this mouse experiment, and this prize is like cheese.” It’s not a surprise that Parvati’s analogy contains food because that’s what these starving Edge inhabitants are desperate for, and therein lies the dilemma. Does Parvati keep her discovery secret, nab herself some tokens and use them to feed only herself, much like Tyson did with the jar of peanut butter? Or does she tell the group and spend the tokens on food they can all share together? Parvati comes clean, choosing selflessness over selfishness. It’s a decision that highlights how close-knit a family these castaways become on the Edge, which is also why it’s such a huge advantage to any Edge returnee sitting in the Final Three. The shared sacrifice and struggle of the Edge dwellers can not be replicated by those who were never voted out.
In regards to the actual advantage, the less said, the better. I mean, seriously, a “50/50 Coin” — that’s what we’re calling this thing? If you didn’t quite understand it, it’s basically a wooden disc with “SAFE” etched on one side and “NOT SAFE” on the other, and the holder of this coin can use it one time at any Tribal Council until the Final Seven. If it lands safe side up, then that player becomes immune from the vote. Jeff must have been having a Fijian fever dream when he thought up this one. And he laughed at Adam for thinking set decoration might be an idol?! At least Adam’s idea would have had a cool-looking payoff. Are we really expecting high drama from a coin flip? What’s next, a rock-paper-scissors Immunity Challenge? And Michele had to pay a hefty four fire tokens for this thing; hopefully, the odds are in her favor.
While I want to dock points for the stupidity of the 50/50 Coin, I can’t stay mad at an episode that featured a delightful mix of human drama and chaotic strategy — capped off by a Survivor moment that, in terms of pure entertainment, is up there with Randy’s fake idol, Angelina’s failed jacket heist, and the infamous F’ing stick. And we have Adam to thank for that.
• I like that Michele’s decision to purchase the dumb 50/50 Coin was inspired by the fortune cookies from the Chinese takeout reward. I bet you Jeff wrote those fortunes himself to encourage the players to make bad decisions. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a deleted scene of Adam reading a fortune that said, “You’ll find good luck in unexpected places.”
• Kim has been underedited this season, so it’s nice to see her snatching some airtime this week with an Immunity win. I believe that makes her the woman with most Immunity wins ever, taking her previous season into account.
• There’s also some superb flailing in the Immunity Challenge, particularly from Ben and Jeremy.
• Lastly, there’s a brilliant editing touch at Tribal Council, after all the chatter ceases, you just hear the crackling of the fire as the tribe returns Adam’s pleas with silence.